Customer engagement is one of the most important metrics a business can have, but is often overlooked or misreported. After all, why should customer engagement matter if sales are up and revenue is steaming in? Right? Wrong. Your customers are without doubt your biggest asset — they’re the reason your business succeeds, stays afloat, or even turns to ruin. Up to two-thirds of a company’s profit relies on effective customer engagement. If you’re not already thinking about customer engagement as a business owner, managing director, operations director or chief marketing officer then it really is time to adjust your focus and bring customer engagement into the spotlight.
Let’s kick things off with a simple definition of customer engagement. It is the process of building relationships and loyalty with your customers through a series of ongoing interactions, back and forth. It’s all the ways you communicate with your customers and they communicate in return, from emails and phone calls to conversations on social media and reviews on third-party websites. Creating a strategy around these interactions can help you keep your customers happy — and bring in new business, too. When you link all of these interactions together and take a planned approach to their implementation, you’re one step closer to creating a winning customer engagement strategy. The best customer engagement strategies aim to increase the number of positive interactions a company receives, transforming communications from reactive to proactive. Be there for your customers, ask for their feedback and reach out to solve their problems.
Understanding why you should engage your customers is critical to your strategy’s success. It’s not just a tick-box exercise that is done once and never again. Investing time and resources into your customer engagement strategy can result in lots of positive outcomes.
Great customer experience will benefit your business’s bottom line. Research shows 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, with customer experience being the factor that outshines product and price. Aside from increased sales and revenue, a strong customer experience strategy can also help to reduce customer churn. As many as 60% of consumers stop doing business with a brand if they have a negative experience, and due to the fact that it’s 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one, reducing churn where you can is critical to business success.
Getting your customer experience right can also benefit your brand awareness and recognition, which is key to bringing in new leads at the top of the sales and marketing funnel. It is true that 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people — for your brand this might look like referrals to friends and family, positive reviews online, great case studies, or happy conversations and promotion on social media. Data shows that 28% of millennials won't try a product if their friends don't approve of it, while word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of purchasing decisions, so it’s really important that the conversations people are having about your company and customer experience are glowing with positivity.
Now you know what a customer engagement strategy is and why it’s critical to your business, it’s time to get started with building one out for your business. You might feel tempted to just jump right in with no clear direction or plan, but this means you won’t use your customer engagement to its full potential.
A thorough analysis of your customers and their interactions with your business is the best place to start. Do this and you will be in a much better position to craft a winning customer experience strategy which is bespoke to your business. Use our step-by-step guide below to source all of the information you’ll need and create your customer engagement strategy:
Create your customer personas
Who exactly are your customers? Commit some time to analysing your customer base and building it out into various segments. You can do this based on demographics, behaviour (such as repeat purchase rate or average purchase amount), job title and company size, or location. Any aspect or identifier that represents a significant group of your customers can be used in segmentation. Once you have your segments formed, build out personas for each of them. This task will help you to better understand your customers at a more individual level, which can inform their engagement expectations and needs. Create one persona per segment — give them a name and map out their wants and needs, frustrations and challenges, where they spend their time online and offline, what their motivations are, how your business can solve their problems, and which channels they might be most likely to engage with. If you don’t have this information to hand, interrogate your customer data as best you can and think of ways to fill any gaps. Personas work best when they are as close to your real customers as possible.
Understand the journeys your customers take and map them out
We live in a world of micro-moments that occur for customers across multiple devices and platforms. It might take 5, 10, 20 or even more of these micro-moments and interactions before a lead becomes a customer for your company, so it’s vital that you understand where and how they take place. Analyse all of the touchpoints your customers encounter when interacting with your brand. These can be offline and online, and examples include:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Physical stores
- Customer service
- Product reviews
- Influencer recommendations
- Peer reviews
- Physical and digital events
Once you have your list of touchpoints, work with your marketing team to further refine your acquisition channels. This will help you to understand how each channel functions and whether there is room for improvement in terms of how they impact your customer engagement. Ask for insights into SEO, paid search, email marketing, direct traffic, organic and paid social media, and other online referrals.
The very first interaction a lead has with your brand can be the thing that makes or breaks the next steps they take with your business. Which channels are initiating those first interactions? How are leads first hearing about your brand? Depending on how your customers learn about your brand, you may want to reinforce (or spend more money) on the channel in question, or create a tailored plan that aims to nurture the initial interaction into something more.
Your website can be your greatest asset when it comes to collecting (and encouraging) customer engagement. Maybe you are driving interactions through valuable downloadable content or email subscription boxes. You probably have a contact form or chatbot set up so that customers can reach you, and you might also be running an on-page survey to collect in-the-moment engagements from your website visitors. These types of engagement points can collect lots of data that can later be utilised to fine-tune your customer engagement strategy. If you’re not using tactics like these yet, consider implementing them on your website for data collection going forward. You can ask a variety of questions via pop up surveys, including direct questions about what you could do to make them feel more connected to your brand.
If you have a strong presence on social media, with regular content that has high engagement rates and an active response from your customer service team, it is likely that your social platforms are one of your main hubs for customer engagement. Link back to your customer journey analysis to identify which ones are the most popular with your audience. Incorporating your social media activity into your customer engagement strategy is key, because this is where happy (and unhappy) customers are often most vocal. Use your social channels to promote your brand and USPs, but also to connect with your customers and start conversations that they want to be part of. We’ve reviewed the most popular platforms below:
Instagram is a very visual platform, bursting with colourful images and videos. It’s great for brands with a strong aesthetic appeal, such as travel companies, health and beauty brands, cosmetics companies, photo services and fashion retailers. It’s easy to engage your customers on Instagram — the challenge is getting them to engage back with you. In fact, Instagram is notoriously bad for channelling the traffic back to websites. It is also difficult to generate followers on Instagram without spending a lot of time engaging with your audience and often paying a lot to promote your account. Start out by using Instagram for brand awareness — tactics such as ‘tag a friend’ campaigns or creating your own unique hashtag can work well to expand your reach and visibility. Increase engagements by running competitions and incentifying your customers to promote your brand.
YouTube can be a fantastic traffic generator, bringing a stream of engaged visitors to your website, but the expectations of its users are ever-growing. Nowadays, only high-quality videos with great production get the most attention. This means that a YouTube account can become expensive to produce content for and manage. Try repurposing content that you create for other channels including webinars, tutorials and guides — make your content as useful to your audience as possible. This will ensure that you build an engaged audience of subscribers and, with time, customers.
Pinterest has transformed in recent years from a visual inspiration platform to a strong selling tool for businesses. You’ll find multiple audiences using Pinterest, from people planning home decor through to those in need of some gift inspiration. Pinterest revolves very much around ‘things’, with people essentially creating wishlists with the boards they create. If you’re a retail brand, Pinterest can be a great way to engage an audience who already know they have an interest in or need for your products. Create your own brand boards based around different themes and trends — think seasons, colours, styles or demographics.
Facebook offers lots of ways to connect with and engage your audience. Post brand updates, case studies, product launches and competitions to your page to keep your followers interested and engaged with your company. Run competitions which incentivise liking and sharing posts to widen your reach and increase your brand awareness. Create Facebook groups especially for your key customer segments, where you can bring like-minded people together and spark conversations that will be valuable and of genuine interest. You can also use paid Facebook adverts to retarget your website visitors based on their interactions with your website and content. This will ensure that they stay engaged with your brand until they’re ready to become a customer.
LinkedIn is the go-to social media network for professionals and for B2B companies looking to find and engage new audiences. Position yourself as a thought-leader on the platform and start conversations with influencers in your industry and with people who can benefit from your services. LinkedIn is a great place to encourage people to engage with your content — you can promote valuable lead generation content such as whitepapers, research or guides. LinkedIn is very much about two-way conversations, so be prepared to have a voice that will inspire your audience and engage them over time.
Snapchat isn’t just for younger generations who want to document their day-to-day lives — brands can have a big impact by engaging their audience in fun and creative ways. Build a sponsored lens that reflects your brand and watch your target audience boost your brand awareness by using your lens in their content. Snapchat users are 60% more likely to make an impulse purchase on the platform, which means it’s also possible to turn your Snapchat engagements into revenue.
Twitter is often the go-to channel for disgruntled customers who have had a negative experience with your brand. All it takes is a well-planned hashtag for their complaint to reach thousands of people around the world. Equally, the right response from your brand to any negative engagements can work wonders. Be quick to respond to complaints or questions, and do so politely and with a genuine desire to help.
TikTok is the platform of the moment, having grown massively in the past 12 months. One of its best features is its authenticity, with users sharing honest and unfiltered glimpses into their lives. If your target audience is on TikTok, you should approach the platform with the same spirit that they have. Be natural, be authentic, be genuine and communicate in a way that feels right for the TikTok users. This is the only way to win engagements from your audience. If you get it wrong, you risk putting your audience off or getting negative engagements instead of positive.
Review platforms are a great way to get to know your customers and further fine-tune your customer engagement strategy. With Feefo, you can ask your customers additional questions in your feedback request forms. These can be tailored to suit the information you need to better understand your audience and refine your engagement strategy so it works well for them. If you’re using review platforms, brief your customer service team on the importance of them replying in a timely and helpful way, as unanswered reviews can portray your business in a bad light.
Personalise your customer interactions and experiences
Research shows that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides personalised experiences. Instead of providing a generic experience to everyone that visits your website and engages with your brand, website personalisation allows you to present your visitors with different experiences that are unique to their needs and behaviour. Tailor your website experiences by where your user is located, whether they’re an existing customer, their browsing behaviour or how they’ve reached your website. A personalised website experience can then be supplemented with tailored retargeting advertising, specific to the user, and personalised email marketing. Making your customers feel seen, understood and appreciated at an individual level as you engage with them is a great way to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Public relations and customer engagement
Sit down with your PR team and bring them into your customer engagement project. They might not seem like the most obvious port of call but don’t overlook the value they can add. Work together to monitor the impact of their campaigns as they build up your brand awareness and image, and analyse their activity to better understand what it is that the public likes about your brand. You can then leverage this information to better engage your customers. Do they love that you have a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and are very involved with your local community? Take that insight and create a campaign to engage them by asking for their input into CSR project ideas. Are they impressed by your sense of humour and commitment to stand out from your competitors by making them laugh? Reach out to your customers and engage them with a user-generated content campaign that makes them feel included in the joke.
Commit to your customer engagement strategy as a long-term piece of work
The work you do towards your customer engagement strategy should never be considered ‘done’. Your customers are a living, breathing entity, whose expectations and challenges are changing all the time. External influences such as technology and social trends are constantly changing the landscape for every business, which means you need to keep your customers engaged to stay ahead of the game and ahead of your competitors. Keep the lines of communication open between your business and your customers, utilising your touchpoints to maximise their engagement with your brand. Schedule in regular reviews of your activity and performance so that you can fine-tune your strategy, allowing you to stay abreast of your customers’ expectations and needs when it comes to engagement.
We’ve mentioned above that reviewing your performance will help you to fine-tune your strategy and keep it relevant to your customers, but how exactly can you track your results? Some of the best key performance indicators to measure are:
- More happy customer reviews — monitor your review website, your social media channels, your customer service inbox and any other spaces online where customer conversations might be taking place
- More traffic on your site — software such as Google Analytics can help you to measure how many people are visiting your website
- YOY increase in search volume for your brand keywords or upward trend — sign up for an SEO monitoring tool like SEMRush, which will help you to keep track of how many people are searching online for your brand
- More leads or sales — we opened this article by explaining how a winning customer engagement strategy can lead to increased leads and revenue. Implement robust tracking so that you can clearly show MOM and YOY increases across both metrics
- Longer time spent on page — an engaged website visitor is a visitor who spends more time on your website. Google Analytics will help you to track time spent on page and average session duration, which shows how engaged people are with your website as a whole
It’s time to make your customers your number one business priority. Introduce a well-researched, well-planned customer engagement strategy into your operations and you’ll reap the rewards in terms of leads, sales and churn. It doesn’t have to be a complicated project — you can keep things simple by improving the engagement points on your website, or get more sophisticated with journey mapping, persona creation, acquisition analysis and input from your PR and social media teams. There is no black and white, one size fits all strategy that you should follow — your customer engagement strategy should be tailored to your business, to be as unique as your customers are. You can also split your strategy out into phases so that you can learn as you go and refine your plans as you acquire more and more data. If you’re planning on collecting data via surveys on your website or customer reviews, Feefo is on hand to help. The sooner you start to tap into your customers’ engagements and connect with them in more places, the sooner you’ll be on your way to a winning customer engagement strategy.
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